“When the landlord didn’t want you there anymore, you had to move. We would go to another place temporarily for a few months and then have to move again. It was always like that.”
Like 25% of looked after children, Pedro has never been fostered, but was placed into residential care as a teenager.
“I’m from the London Borough of Waltham Forest, which is okay for supporting care leavers I would say. But it was also difficult at times… Social services used to rent the houses from private owners, so there was probably 5 or 6 young people in one house and when the owner wanted to sell the house or didn’t want you there anymore you would have to move. So, we would go to another place temporarily for a few months and then have to move again, it was always like that. At one point we were moving every three months which was really annoying.”
Pedro’s social worker kept a record of his housing history and was able to build a strong case for him to bolster his eligibility when bidding for his own flat. This meant, that he could move into his own place only six months after applying.
“It’s not bad at all. I think it’s really good.” (laughs)
Local authorities have a statutory obligation to support young people leaving care up to the age of 21, including helping them find of adequate housing, financial and employability support. For young people who go on to fulltime education however, the obligation is extended to the age of 25. Unfortunately, this is not always the case; as Pedro exemplifies:
“I only fully left care at 24 and it was very difficult as local authorities kept cutting off support. I had to get a lawyer because at this time their support was invaluable to me as I was studying… But I had to believe that I was going to win again and again, which is what kept me going. I get that for other young people it’s very difficult and they don’t have the belief and resilience to get a lawyer. They often suffer in silence and alone.”
For Pedro, the days of suffering are long gone. He moved into his own flat, finished his degree in Engineering and is now working as an Executive Admin Officer for the Department for Education.
Pedro had just finished university when his Personal Advisor told him about Drive Forward. “When I first came here we had a great chat about what it was I wanted to do.” Motivated and eager to start a career, Pedro went home to work on his CV and think about the things he wanted to achieve in life. “I kept on going to Drive Forward every Tuesday or Wednesday, whenever they had activities on. I also checked my emails regularly as they were sending tailored job openings. I still receive emails form Drive Forward, which is cool.” (laughs)
At Drive Forward we don’t stop supporting a young person after they secure their first job, but we aim to effectively support them building a career. Regular updates on personal development and skills training sessions as well as specially selected opportunities are part of our continuous care and support.
“I soon had an email in my inbox about this job vacancy at the Department for Education and immediately got in touch with Ruby. I filled out the application form, answered all the questions, updated my CV, and sent it all off. It then took about two months before I received an email saying that I had been short-listed for the position and was invited to an interview.”
Recruiting for any governmental department is a long process. The recruiting team sort through hundreds of application forms and conduct individual interviews, the process further involves background and security checks. This means, that it may take between 3-4 months before a decision is made, and up to 6 months before people move into their new job.
“It took another two months before I received a phone call from the DfE telling me that I got the job and asking me to come in and meet my line manager. Once I had met him, it took another month or so before I could actually start working.”
In his job as an Executive Admin Officer, Pedro is part of a team of 17 people, made up of civil servants like himself as well as contractors. They work with educational institutions, mainly sixth form and higher education colleges and academies. His colleagues regularly travel across the country to assess college mergers, local need and demand, building costs etc.
“I then have to assess academy applications. That is when a sixth form college wants to become an academy. This includes an evaluation of whether we will give them the money they need or not. And if we do, I will go on managing the transition process.”
Pedro enjoys his job and realises that it presents a great springboard to further his career. He has a keen interest in finance and wants to learn more about managing people.
“In 10 years’ time, I would like to have my own company. I did some training with a Hedge Fund before and would like to help people manage their money.”
In the medium-term, however, Pedro wants to move into the financial sector. He realises that it is a highly competitive sector and is prepared to work hard to succeed.
“I would say I am more mature now than last year, last year I was studying, now I’m working so it’s cool. I can plan and do things, I like studying so I’m doing the hedge fund thing so it’s good.”
“I think everything I’ve done as my younger self was for a purpose and I wouldn’t have done anything differently. What I would say to other young people is to focus and start seeking help early. The help that I have now I could have had earlier if I had searched for it. So, try to be connected with places where you can get help much earlier. Keep focused and structured in what you’re doing, don’t do whatever you’re doing just for the sake of it. I can always do much better than what I’m doing and that’s how the plans come into my head and that brings the ideas. If you want to stop at average then you will always stay average so you’ve got to always dream bigger.”